B.C. judge rules against First Nation, but encourages treaty talks

VANCOUVER – A B.C. Supreme Court justice has ruled against a Vancouver Island First Nation over the transfer of thousands of hectares of land.

But a lawyer for the Kwakiutl (kwa-cue-tul) First Nation says the resulting decision could force the province to implement a treaty it should have honoured over 150 years ago.

Justice Gordon Weatherill refused to reverse a government decision that allowed Western Forest Products Inc. to remove 14,000 hectares land from a tree-farm licence on the island’s northern tip.

The band, which claims the area as part of its traditional territory, says the province didn’t consult it in a meaningful way and as a result breached its constitutional duty.

While Weatherill ruled the provincial government did get the band’s input, he also used his ruling to prompt the federal and provincial governments to negotiate a treaty without further litigation, expense or delay.

Louise Mandell, a lawyer for the band, says the Kwakiutl signed treaties with the government in the early 1850s but the agreements were never implemented and fell off the Crown’s radar.